Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Develop a Culture of Gratitude

Congregations sometime can spiral down into a culture of complaint. A few individuals who like to complain about everything bring down the congregation with negativity. Most people usually do not know how to respond to this. Often, statements of negativity toward the pastor or the leadership go unchallenged. This ends up being destructive to the congregation and its ministry.

About midway through my ministry, I heard an excellent piece of advice to respond to this spiral of negativity. Begin to develop within the leadership, and among people who do love their congregation and who are loved and respected members, a conscious and conscientious culture of gratitude.

It is quite simple. When someone makes a generalized complaining statement in a committee or a group about the church or its leadership, respond with specific things that are positive about the congregation. Negativity can be turned around when people speak out positively, immediately, and specifically. For every negative, respond with three positives.

Our denomination has been under attack for some time by outside groups such as the IRD (who I have been posting about recently) and the Layman. Most of this negativity goes unanswered. When people do not respond to this negativity it spirals. It is as disastrous for a denomination and its ministries as it is for a local congregation.

Recently the Layman has been attacking Presbyterian Disaster Assistance with unfounded accusations and innuendos.

The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is one of the best things the PC(USA) has going. If you are unfamiliar with the PDA, check out its website and get involved.

A few weeks ago, Jim Kirkpatrick of our presbytery's campus ministry, offered a slide show of what campus students have been able to do in the gulf because of the PDA. They have taken several trips to the Gulf and have made a difference in the lives of real people. Jim said that the people who have been hit by the ravages of Katrina are most especially grateful to see the PDA.

Thanks to Candy Reid, program director of Peace River Presbytery for this letter today to the Layman:

I usually just read your articles and shake my head and move on, but this article on the work of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance could not be ignored.

You see, our area received much help from PDA when, in 2004, Hurricane Charlie devastated our area. Hurricane Charlie blew through our area on Friday, Aug. 13. Many, many folks lost their homes or their homes were severely damaged. We could not locate folks in many churches. Six of our churches were badly affected, with First, Punta Gorda losing their whole building. Chapel by the Sea effectively had the gulf sand and water "relocated" to their sanctuary.

On Sunday, Aug. 15, as we gathered together, dirty because there was no water or electricity, we did so with PDA staff present in the most severely hurt areas. They offered hope and financial gifts immediately.

On Monday, Aug. 16, our presbytery was overwhelmed with help of all kinds from PDA. This help continued for the next two-and-a-half years with many, many monetary gifts but, more important, gifts of self through personnel, volunteers and direction. We could not have recovered with the help of PDA.

For you to continue to attack the work of PDA is an outrage. How can you continue to find fault with the Presbyterian Church (USA) over and over again is beyond me. But how dare you suggest that money is not being spent in the right way. You go and work and see what is done and learn how you have to figure how to stretch the dollars to get the most help for people. Talk to others who have worked in the Gulf Coast and in Peace River Presbytery. We in Peace River Presbytery are grateful for the work of PDA and the PCUSA.

Candy Reid
program coordinator
Peace River Presbytery

It is time for people to speak up for our denomination and for the good work it does, such as the work of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. We can turn negativity into positive action.
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